March is 4th month in a row with decrease in number of toxic drug deaths

March is 4th month in a row with decrease in number of toxic drug deaths
File photo - On the seventh anniversary of the public health emergency being declared, a memorial was set up for those lost to the drug poisoning crisis.

The number of toxic drug-related deaths in B.C. saw a decrease of 11 per cent from the year before, but there were still 192 people who died due to the ongoing public health emergency.

In March 2024, the 192 deaths is a decrease from March 2023, when 215 people died. B.C.’s Coroner Service says this amounts to 6.2 deaths per day.

“For British Columbians between 10 and 59, unregulated drug toxicity is the leading cause of death, accounting for more deaths than homicides, suicides, accidents and natural disease combined,” the coroner service says in a news release.

Story continues below

March was the fourth month in a row that there was a decrease in the number of toxic drug deaths in B.C. February saw an 11 per cent decrease from February 2023, and a 12 per cent decrease from January 2024.

Before that, January saw a 14 per cent decrease from January 2023 and a 10 per cent decrease from December 2023.

December 2023 also saw a decrease from the year before, with 231 deaths in December 2022, compared to 229 in 2023.

In Island Health, 43 people died due to unregulated drugs, which is a decrease from the month prior when 44 people died.

Nanaimo continues to have the third highest rate of death in the province, behind Vancouver and Surrey. Thirty-eight people have died due to toxic drugs in Nanaimo so far in 2024.

Story continues below

Central Vancouver Island continues to have the highest number of drug toxicity deaths with 61 so far in 2024, followed by South Vancouver Island with 38 people who have died, and North Vancouver Island with 29 deaths.

Story continues below

Jennifer Whiteside, B.C.’s minister of mental health and addictions says the government continues to try and address this public health emergency, which just marked its eighth anniversary since it was declared in April 2016.

READ PREVIOUS: Eight years since B.C. declared public health emergency, toxic drug crisis rages on

“I also want to reaffirm our commitment to building a diverse system of care that not only addresses immediate safety but also supports long-term health and wellness,” Whiteside said in a statement.

“A crucial part of our work is reducing barriers so that more people can be connected to the care they need, where and when they need it. We’re expanding publicly funded treatment and recovery beds across the province, improving access to medication-assisted treatments, and increasing crisis supports so more people can find a pathway to hope and healing that works for them.”

Just over one year after B.C. started its decriminalization trial as a step towards addressing the crisis, the province announced it had requested the federal government recriminalize public drug use.

READ PREVIOUS: B.C. seeks federal approval to ban drug use in public spaces

Advocates for drug users say this move could be a step backwards in addressing the public health emergency.

“They are going to be recriminalized in every sense of the word and it is very disappointing, in the middle of this overdose crisis when 14,000 people have died, that our current government is blaming our larger problems of homelessness, and poverty, and the welfare state on the individual people who have nowhere to go,” Brittany Graham, the executive director of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users told the Canadian Press on April 28.

READ PREVIOUS: Drug user advocates concerned about B.C.’s decriminalization exception request

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!